What is a veterinarian?
A veterinarian is a healthcare professional who cares for and treats animals. They can care for a variety of species including household pets, livestock and wild animals. Veterinarians typically foster a love for animals as well as an interest in medicine and science.
Roles and responsibilities of a veterinarian
Here are some common roles and responsibilities of a veterinarian:
- Diagnose animal injuries or illnesses
- Communicate with pet owners or livestock owners to discuss treatment options
- Dress wounds on animals
- Perform surgery on animals
- Prescribe medicine to animals
- Administer vaccines to animals
- Euthanize animals when necessary
- Travel to client homes to care for animals remotely
Types of veterinarians
Research veterinarians work for research facilities, universities or government agencies. They use their knowledge of biology and chemistry to research trends in animal illnesses and disease. Further, they can also care for animals with health conditions and create drugs or vaccines at the pharmaceutical level which can help treat or cure certain ailments.
Veterinary specialists can work in a variety of veterinary sub-practices. These include dentistry, surgery, anesthesiology, pathology or a particular animal species. To become a veterinary specialist in one of these areas, you usually need to obtain additional certifications after graduating from an accredited veterinary school.
Companion animal veterinarians
Companion animal veterinarians are the equivalent to basic care physicians to humans. In this case, "companion animal" refers to household pets. Veterinarians at this level can work with a variety of animals considered as pets. These can include common pets like dogs and cats. Also, they treat and perform check-ups on other species like birds, guinea pigs, hamsters and ferrets.
Zoo veterinarians are those who work exclusively with zoos or wildlife refuges. Here, they examine exotic animal species in addition to treating and diagnosing injuries and illnesses. Typically, those who want to pursue a career as a zoo veterinarian graduate from an accredited veterinary program before completing a residency at a zoo or refuge where they learn how to safely implement veterinary practices.
Equine veterinarians work directly with horses. They typically travel to their clients’ farms or ranches to perform check-ups, administer first aid or diagnose and treat injury or illnesses. Equine veterinarians can also obtain additional certifications in specialties like equine surgery, dentistry, preventative care and sports medicine (horse racing). Equine veterinarians can also work with donkeys and ponies as these species are in the Equine family.
Aquatic veterinarians or fish veterinarians are responsible for caring and treating aquatic species of fish, dolphins, sea turtles, sharks, whales, seals, sea lions and other species in fresh or saltwater ecosystems. Usually, aquatic veterinarians work for aquariums or marine parks. Also, they can work for zoos, aquatic rehabilitation facilities and museums. They administer care to aquatic species in their natural ecosystems.
Food animal veterinarians
Food animal veterinarians specialize in caring for, treating and diagnosing livestock that will be used as a human food source in the future. Food animal veterinarians usually travel to farms to help maintain healthy living conditions for the animals and help assess the health of livestock. In addition to traveling positions, food animal veterinarians can also work in permanent positions for farms or ranches. Food safety and inspection veterinarians are similar to this type of veterinarian, but they focus on healthy living conditions of livestock.
Here are the steps to become a veterinarian, according to Penn State’s Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences:
- Earn a bachelor’s degree
- Earn a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree
- Gain work experience in a veterinary office
- Take your state’s board examination to gain licensure
- Pursue a veterinary specialty and certification(s)
Here are some frequently asked questions about veterinarians:
How many days a week do veterinarians typically work?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Veterinarians usually work more than 40 hours a week. They might also be on-call for emergency appointments and may work weekend or night shifts to accommodate the needs of their patients.
What’s the difference between a veterinarian and veterinarian’s assistant?
Relying on information from the BLS, the difference between a veterinarian and a veterinarians’ assistant can be contributed to a few factors:
- Veterinarians need to hold a doctorate degree whereas veterinarian assistants need to have a high school diploma.
- Veterinarian assistants perform administrative and basic animal care whereas veterinarians assess animals, make diagnoses and perform advanced medical procedures.
- Veterinarians make an average of $95,460 per year while veterinarian assistants make an average of $28,590 per year.
How do I (as an employer) find a good veterinarian?
Find qualified veterinarians by creating a tailored job description. This should outline the requirements for veterinary candidates and it can help you make sure you receive applications from qualified individuals. Also, make sure that the candidates you consider have graduated from an accredited veterinary school and received licensure to work in your state. Lastly, bring them in for an in-person interview so you can determine if they could work well within your veterinary office.
How do I interview a veterinarian?
To have a thorough interview and to hire a veterinary candidate, review their resume, cover letter and other application details ahead of their interview. This will keep the information fresh in your mind so you can ask candidates important questions about their previous work and education. Also, create a list of interview questions to help guide the interview and assess their qualifications. Include questions like, "What made you want to become a veterinarian?" or " Can you tell me about a time you had to calm down an animal before giving them treatment?"